I was born in the 1970s. It was a time of ill-advised wallpaper choices, flares and tank tops, wearing purple with orange and brown and music that overall was pretty dire. That is, of course, only my opinion – some of you may love some 70s music, but I’m not here to discuss that today.
Something else that was notable about the 70s was the sexual backlash from the 60s, which in turn was a backlash from the era of repressed sexuality and disapproval of the 40s and 50s.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you could be a fly on the wall throughout those decades and before.
It wasn’t until 1928 that women had equal voting rights with men in the United Kingdom.
Women generally for the first time were ‘put to work’ during World War II in factories and got a taste for life outside the home. After the war, pressure was put upon them to return to being housewives in order to give employment to the men who had returned from war.
In the 1950s, Rock and Roll hit the UK and the first real taste of rebellion hit the young women of that era.
In the 60s, women were making strides towards independence and self-sufficiency and – although it wasn’t so widespread as scenes from Woodstock would have you believe – women began to feel they could make independent choices about their love lives and who they chose to have sex with.
This was reinforced by the introduction of the birth control contraceptive pill on the NHS which became available in 1961. For the first time, women were in control of their own bodies and did not have to rely on a man using protection to avoid pregnancy and, usually in those days, marriage, if an unplanned pregnancy occurred.
The 70s brought with it a wider variety of television programming including comedy such as “Benny Hill” and the “Carry On…” films. Smutty and silly humour was very popular as were honking tits and ‘parp’ sounds when bums were grabbed. It was all a bit puerile by today’s standards, but it was popular then.
Comedians were openly sexist and racist, and this was on mainstream, peak-time television.
The Sex Discrimination Act and the Equal Opportunities Commission created to uphold it were not commenced until 1975.
It seems almost that by women’s emancipation, they had opened themselves up to a different kind of problem. Women as openly sexual beings, women in the workplace, women who had opinions and dressed in short skirts were seen now as fair game.
It’s hard to describe being a 70s child to anyone who wasn’t there. But ‘in my day’ everyone knew someone who was a dirty old man. “Old so and so? Oh yeah he’s a right dirty bugger he is. He tried to make little Sarah Thingy touch his doodah”.
This included (to my knowledge) aged gardeners, pillars of the local council, reverends, shop keepers and friend’s uncles.
In the workplace, it was even more normal. While the TV on a Saturday night showed well-dressed, married men copping a feel of their secretary for a blast of canned laughter, men thought it was acceptable to act this way in their real offices and did so. Women who objected had no sense of humour and were expected to laugh it off too.
A woman who complained about this treatment would be seen as a trouble causer or worse.
Much of the literature relating to sexual harassment wasn’t published until the 1990s for the simple reason that it wasn’t until this time that most women had established enough confidence in their right to remain ungroped that they actually had begun to say no and mean it.
In 1992, I had a newish job in a large office and came in one day in smart trousers with a blouse. My (female) boss took me aside and explained that it wasn’t accepted that women wear trousers in those offices and that I should wear a skirt for work in future. Being a young woman full of vim and vigour and a wardrobe full of trouser suits, I told her to do one and that if the management had an issue with me wearing trousers, they should put it in writing. Nobody ever did of course and by the time I left that place, all the women wore trousers when they felt like it (including my boss).
So… my point is this
While there are some awful crimes coming to light, committed by perverts who were famous back then and are now old men, against women and children, that is not the whole story.
Yes there are crimes against children coming out, yes there are instances of rape and those cases need looking at and dealing with, and to be fair, they needed looking it a long time ago and it is a shame it has taken so long, as memory and physical evidence will be in short supply.
With regards to the remainder of the cases involving inappropriate conduct, it’s easy to sit here in 2013 and think, “Yes but how could someone ever think it was okay to sexually harass a woman or to touch her inappropriately”, but the fact is, that is how it was.
Men did grab bums, cop feels of boobs and get away with it. Nobody said anything then because it was normal, not because it was a conspiracy or cover up. Do most of those men still act that way? I doubt it, I think that they were the male-chauvinistic pigs of the 70s who gradually came to see that the behaviour they had exhibited was wrong and they put it behind them.
It was behaviour of a time. A time that has, thank God, passed.
If a co-worker approached me and grabbed my arse, I’d definitely report it and I’d definitely expect him to be warned about his conduct. But that’s now…
I don’t want to comment on the individuals accused of these crimes but let’s just say that to me, there are the ones who are Perverts and are right at the root of the problem and there are 70s Pigs, and they are way up the sexual harassment tree.
Do you think it’s right that people are prosecuted for crimes committed when the era did not consider it to be one? Should every comedian be arrested now who ever told a disgusting joke at someone’s expense? Isn’t it a hop, skip and a short jump from that to prosecuting people for crimes they have thought about but not yet committed?
I’m glad the offensive behaviour is not considered socially acceptable any longer, but the witch hunt remains and I fear it’s a long way from over. I hope that those who have caused people damage are prosecuted and punished, I hope the victims find some peace in the resolution and I hope, then, that it will be over.
But it won’t of course, because then all the civil cases will begin. I don’t believe that money solves any emotional injury, but there are many that do. So…
If you were ever touched inappropriately by a fading 70s pig, you might be entitled to compensation… simply dial 0800 B00B A55 on a no-win, no-fee basis.